With COVID-19 and the talk of rationing medical care, it is more important than ever to discuss ableism and the danger of sacrificing Disabled people for the sake of the economy. I have seen some disturbing content on social media regarding the reopening of the economy and how elderly, Disabled, and immunocompromised lives are worth sacrificing for the greater good. As an amateur studying disability history on the side of my regular course load, I am terrified of this logic. Reading up on disability history, I know how this logic has been used for eugenics and genocide in the past, and more importantly, I see this logic being used to weaponize people’s differences and pit people against each other.
In 1939, the Holocaust killing began with Disabled people being euthanized. According to the Nazi Party, Disabled people such as those with mental illnesses, learning disabilities, physical deformities, epilepsy, blindness, and deafness, were “useless eaters” who consumed more than they gave to society. Their murder could easily be justified as an act of “mercy.” Nondisabled people could not fathom how Disabled people could possibly have lives worth living. While a famous quote about the Holocaust starts with “First they came for the socialists,” this is simply untrue. Disabled people were the first killed by the Nazis, and erasing this part of history is dangerous, especially during a time when people are feeling desperate. When we fear for our own lives, we tend to care a bit less about others.
Abled people do not get to choose if it is worth it to risk lives and end social distancing because it is harming the economy. Life is not some game of chess. If we start to decide who deserves to live and who we can let die, I fear that our humanity will be lost. Even in times of crisis, we must humanize others, especially those who hold identities different from our own. Disabled or abled, young or old, sick or healthy, we are still human.
I am going to be frank, as I always have been on this blog: I am scared. Yes, I am scared because I am at high risk of suffering severe medical complications and even death from coronavirus, but I am more scared about how some people are responding and the implications that has on the value of Disabled, elderly, and chronically ill lives. I am scared that in dire situations we will become the de facto sacrificial lambs of society.
This is not meant to alarm people. More than anything, I am urging others to consider the weight of their words and actions during such frightening and uncertain times. With that being said, I have had the privilege of seeing abled allies in action. I have seen people denouncing ableism, making face masks, providing for their neighbors, and just being humans for and with others. I know this is a brief post, but I figured my voice may shed some light on how COVID-19 is affecting Disabled people. Stay safe and stay well.